Monday, December 26, 2005

Best Laid Plans

So back in my blog entry entitled “More or Less”, I explained how we were going to experiment with the kids this year and try to have them make a donation somewhere instead of receiving a gift themselves.

Last night was Christmas and the first night of Hanukah. Given that they woke up to a living room stacked with more gifts than “Toys For Tots” collects for the season, we decided that anything we’d give them for Hanukah last night would just become “one more” so we laid our donation plan on them.

After lighting the candles and saying the blessing, we explained how this would work. We gave each kid $25 in cash. Then MLB presented printouts from various charitable donation sites she found that she thought might spark the gift-giving desires within our kids.

There was a site where you could donate money toward educational toys for underprivileged villages in underdeveloped countries. Another where you could donate musical instruments to schools in similar underdeveloped countries. Another would let you buy a family a cow so it (the family) could use it (the cow) for farming and for milking. Still another offered the same gig but let you choose other sorts of livestock and farming/breeding animals.

The one that sparked Monkey Boy’s imagination was an “Adopt-A-Manatee” site ( He’s a nature and animal lover and all it took was one photo of these gentle, beautiful giants to make him thrust his $25 cash back across the table at us. It was a beautiful moment.

After a little hesitation, Peanut went for the Musical Instruments. She returned her cash and we were cooking with gas.

This morning, Monkey Boy reiterated over breakfast how cool he thought that it was that he was going to adopt a manatee. He wanted to know if he could pick his manatee? Where did it live? Could we visit it? Etc.

So MLB took Monkey upstairs and they went online to try to make his donation and find out more.

Sure enough, they gave lots of photos of manatees and you were able to pick the one you adopted. Monkey picked a big guy named Floyd. Next, he learned that for his $25, he not only would help feed and maintain Floyd, but he’d also get:

-- A photo of his manatee
-- The manatee's biography
-- An adoption certificate
-- A membership handbook
-- Four newsletters throughout the year with updated reports on his adoptee

About this moment, MLB and I exchange a look wondering just how much of this $25 is actually going to find its way to Floyd. He’s a damn big animal. I’m sure he could eat at least $25 of fish and vegetables per day. Nevertheless, in for a penny, in for a pound. So we pushed on.

But then this donation thing took a turn we weren’t expecting.

All of a sudden, Peanut asks: "If Monkey Boy gets all that stuff, what do I get for my donation?" Not a bad question given the context.

After checking out the Musical Instruments site and finding all you get is a receipt for your taxes, we explained that the whole idea wasn’t to GET something for the donation. It was supposed to be about doing something for someone or something else and not yourself. It was to drive home the idea that there were other people and things in the world less fortunate than we were and it’s a good idea, during this time of year when we’re getting so much, to remember these other people and do something, however small, to make the world better for others.

Peanut nodded. I think we almost had her convinced.

That is, until Monkey Boy asked if they were going to engrave his name on a plaque on the tank where Floyd lives.

We explained to Monkey that you’d have to give much more than $25 for them to do something like that. He accepted this answer.

But Peanut decided to drop her plan to donate musical instruments and adopted a manatee named Lily instead.

Just in case.

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